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SpeedVegas still in talks on OSHA fines

Representatives of SpeedVegas, the fast-car driving experience with a track south of Las Vegas, are continuing to negotiate with the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration to reduce $16,000 in fines imposed on three safety violation citations.

Jess Lankford, Nevada OSHA’s chief administrative officer, said SpeedVegas executives earlier this week retracted a letter to contest the citations after a discussion with OSHA district officials, but the case won’t be concluded until both sides sign off on settlement terms.

OSHA in July determined that SpeedVegas had a substandard fire and safety plan and failed to properly train employees in fire suppression, but that wasn’t a contributing factor in the fiery crash that killed two people in February.

$16,000 fines proposed

The agency, which reviewed the crash as a workplace accident, recommended penalties on two serious violations with proposed fines of $7,000 and $4,000, two “other-than-serious” violations and three regulatory notices, each including proposed fines of $1,000.

Neither OSHA nor representatives of SpeedVegas indicated what violations or citations are still under review.

“SpeedVegas cannot discuss details of an ongoing case or the details about any amicable resolution still under negotiation,” Howard Mavity, an attorney for the company, said in an emailed statement.

“The company is more focused on guaranteeing the safest driving experience available than in litigation,” Mavity said. “SpeedVegas and Nevada OSHA have continued their productive dealings and an amicable resolution permits SpeedVegas to avoid distraction and regard Nevada OSHA as an additional resource in its safety efforts.”

Had the citations been challenged through a letter to contest the findings, SpeedVegas executives would have been required to convince a five-person review board why they felt the citations and fines weren’t appropriate. Now, the company is in negotiations with the agency on specific details of the citations that could change them and the amount of the fines.

First meeting with OSHA

A list of violations and proposed penalties was first discussed by OSHA officials in a July 25 meeting with SpeedVegas executives Darren Strahl, executive vice president of operations, and Johnny McMahon, chief operating officer.

Companies cited by OSHA are given the opportunity to challenge or appeal proposed citations and penalties.

OSHA investigated the Feb. 12 car crash that killed Canadian tourist Craig Sherwood and track driving instructor Gil Ben-Kely as an industrial accident.

Although the company’s critics placed blame on the track’s design with a sharp S-curve near a concrete barrier at the end of a long straightaway, SpeedVegas maintained the track was safe and reopened 12 days after the accident.

Because OSHA can only measure standards based on local statutes and codes, the track’s design was not considered an issue.

“After reviewing local statutes, codes, standards and other recognized industry standards, I determined that there were no applicable standards at the time of the accident for the track use and track design at SpeedVegas,” the report narrative said.

Details archived

Once the matter is resolved, Lankford said the SpeedVegas case would be archived for historical background about operations at the facility for future reference. The archive will be retained for at least five years to make determinations about potential repeat violations in the future.

A civil lawsuit was filed by Ben-Kely’s estate against SpeedVegas in June and earlier this month a rare petition for involuntary bankruptcy was filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware against the company by six entities.

SpeedVegas has not indicated how it would respond to the bankruptcy filing, but has until mid-September to determine if it would fight the petition or voluntarily enter bankruptcy.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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